Etienne Russo is perhaps most well-known for being one of today’s preeminent fashion producers. With some two decades of experience to his name and a roster of noted design-house collaborations—Chanel, Dries Van Noten, and Hermès, among them—Russo has been responsible for creating some of the industry’s most iconic and otherworldly shows (a favorite was his 2015 collaboration with Steven Klein and NARS staged in Yonkers, New York). Perhaps the most unconventional of his partnerships to date is with Chef de Cave Régis Camus, Carl Hirschmann and L’Officiel’s very own, Benjamin Eymère, to produce HEAVENSAKE, a Japanese-made, decidedly French-inspired sake line.
How did you come to be involved with HEAVENSAKE? What about the project excited you?
I embarked on that adventure with two close friends of mine, Carl Hirschmann and Benjamin Eymere, who, like me, love good sake. We had had quite a number of dinner parties while enjoying the delightful feeling of sake and soon realized the feeling the next day was equally nice as we were waking up “fresh as roses!” We decided we wanted to share those amazing properties around us and started ideating HEAVENSAKE.
Shakespeare famously wrote, "What's in a name;" so, why HEAVENSAKE?
We actually decided on the name very early on—Carl had come up with it at the beginning of the adventure. We wanted something that purveyed a sense of elevation and joy, something that stayed in your mind. HEAVENSAKE simply made sense!
In the fashion world, you are one of the most recognized names in fashion show productions—Chanel, Hermes, Dries Van Noten are all collaborators. Why did you decide to step into the world of sake and not wine? Since you were born in Belgium to Italian parents.
It wasn’t about choosing sake over wine for me—the world of sake naturally became a passion and I wished to share it with the world around me! My love for sake and Japanese culture started in the mid-’80s when I lived six months in Tokyo. There is no comparison to any other drink in terms of the purity—the complete lack of sulphites, sugars and added alcohol is key, you can enjoy a few drinks and yet feel light and sharp the next day, no hangover! My only recommendation would be to start with HEAVENSAKE, finish with HEAVENSAKE, no mixing.
You're used to working with some of fashion's creative giants; what was it like to work with a master winemaker like Régis Camus?
What all creative forces really hope for is to generate emotions. Regis is no different. He expresses himself with liquids while others use textile or paint. What struck me was his humility and capacity to share his art with such simplicity, pulling everyone around into his poetry.